– *updated August 30, 2015 –
Rule 701 under the United States (US) Securities Act of 1933 (“1933 Act“) provides a US federal exemption from registration for compensatory equity issuances of securities by private issuers. Rule 701 was designed specifically for stock option and other compensatory employee benefit plans. It is available to US and Canadian private issuers who are not otherwise reporting issuers under the US Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (“1933 Act”).
In the US, the grant of options is generally not deemed to be a sale of a security for purposes of the 1933 Act. The exemption under Rule 701 is the for the issuance of the stock underlying the options. The offering of this underlying stock is considered to commence when the options become exercisable and to continue until the options are exercised or otherwise terminated.
Rule 701 is fairly broad and does not require a federal filing be made in order to rely on the exemption. The issuer, however, must meet certain requirements to qualify for the exemption.
The full text of Rule 701 is provided below for your convenience.
§ 230.701 Exemption for offers and sales of securities pursuant to certain compensatory benefit plans and contracts relating to compensation.
- This section relates to transactions exempted from the registration requirements of section 5 of the Act (15 U.S.C. 77e). These transactions are not exempt from the antifraud, civil liability, or other provisions of the federal securities laws. Issuers and persons acting on their behalf have an obligation to provide investors with disclosure adequate to satisfy the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.
- In addition to complying with this section, the issuer also must comply with any applicable state law relating to the offer and sale of securities.
- An issuer that attempts to comply with this section, but fails to do so, may claim any other exemption that is available.
- This section is available only to the issuer of the securities. Affiliates of the issuer may not use this section to offer or sell securities. This section also does not cover resales of securities by any person. This section provides an exemption only for the transactions in which the securities are offered or sold by the issuer, not for the securities themselves.
- The purpose of this section is to provide an exemption from the registration requirements of the Act for securities issued in compensatory circumstances. This section is not available for plans or schemes to circumvent this purpose, such as to raise capital. This section also is not available to exempt any transaction that is in technical compliance with this section but is part of a plan or scheme to evade the registration provisions of the Act. In any of these cases, registration under the Act is required unless another exemption is available.
(a) Exemption. Offers and sales made in compliance with all of the conditions of this section are exempt from section 5 of the Act (15 U.S.C. 77e).
(b) Issuers eligible to use this section—
(1) General. This section is available to any issuer that is not subject to the reporting requirements of section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) (15 U.S.C. 78m or 78o(d)) and is not an investment company registered or required to be registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (15 U.S.C. 80a-1 et seq.).
(2) Issuers that become subject to reporting. If an issuer becomes subject to the reporting requirements of section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act (15 U.S.C. 78m or 78o(d)) after it has made offers complying with this section, the issuer may nevertheless rely on this section to sell the securities previously offered to the persons to whom those offers were made.
(3) Guarantees by reporting companies. An issuer subject to the reporting requirements of section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act (15 U.S.C. 78m, 78o(d)) may rely on this section if it is merely guaranteeing the payment of a subsidiary’s securities that are sold under this section.
(c) Transactions exempted by this section. This section exempts offers and sales of securities (including plan interests and guarantees pursuant to paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section) under a written compensatory benefit plan (or written compensation contract) established by the issuer, its parents, its majority-owned subsidiaries or majority-owned subsidiaries of the issuer’s parent, for the participation of their employees, directors, general partners, trustees (where the issuer is a business trust), officers, or consultants and advisors, and their family members who acquire such securities from such persons through gifts or domestic relations orders. This section exempts offers and sales to former employees, directors, general partners, trustees, officers, consultants and advisors only if such persons were employed by or providing services to the issuer at the time the securities were offered. In addition, the term “employee” includes insurance agents who are exclusive agents of the issuer, its subsidiaries or parents, or derive more than 50% of their annual income from those entities.
(1) Special requirements for consultants and advisors. This section is available to consultants and advisors only if:
(i) They are natural persons;
(ii) They provide bona fide services to the issuer, its parents, its majority-owned subsidiaries or majority-owned subsidiaries of the issuer’s parent; and
(iii) The services are not in connection with the offer or sale of securities in a capital-raising transaction, and do not directly or indirectly promote or maintain a market for the issuer’s securities.
(2) Definition of “compensatory benefit plan.” For purposes of this section, a compensatory benefit plan is any purchase, savings, option, bonus, stock appreciation, profit sharing, thrift, incentive, deferred compensation, pension or similar plan.
(3) Definition of “family member.” For purposes of this section, family member includes any child, stepchild, grandchild, parent, stepparent, grandparent, spouse, former spouse, sibling, niece, nephew, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law, including adoptive relationships, any person sharing the employee’s household (other than a tenant or employee), a trust in which these persons have more than fifty percent of the beneficial interest, a foundation in which these persons (or the employee) control the management of assets, and any other entity in which these persons (or the employee) own more than fifty percent of the voting interests.
(d) Amounts that may be sold—
(1) Offers. Any amount of securities may be offered in reliance on this section. However, for purposes of this section, sales of securities underlying options must be counted as sales on the date of the option grant.
(2) Sales. The aggregate sales price or amount of securities sold in reliance on this section during any consecutive 12-month period must not exceed the greatest of the following:
(ii) 15% of the total assets of the issuer (or of the issuer’s parent if the issuer is a wholly-owned subsidiary and the securities represent obligations that the parent fully and unconditionally guarantees), measured at the issuer’s most recent balance sheet date (if no older than its last fiscal year end); or
(iii) 15% of the outstanding amount of the class of securities being offered and sold in reliance on this section, measured at the issuer’s most recent balance sheet date (if no older than its last fiscal year end).
(3) Rules for calculating prices and amounts—
(i) Aggregate sales price. The term aggregate sales price means the sum of all cash, property, notes, cancellation of debt or other consideration received or to be received by the issuer for the sale of the securities. Non-cash consideration must be valued by reference to bona fide sales of that consideration made within a reasonable time or, in the absence of such sales, on the fair value as determined by an accepted standard. The value of services exchanged for securities issued must be measured by reference to the value of the securities issued. Options must be valued based on the exercise price of the option.
(ii) Time of the calculation. With respect to options to purchase securities, the aggregate sales price is determined when an option grant is made (without regard to when the option becomes exercisable). With respect to other securities, the calculation is made on the date of sale. With respect to deferred compensation or similar plans, the calculation is made when the irrevocable election to defer is made.
(iii) Derivative securities. In calculating outstanding securities for purposes of paragraph (d)(2)(iii) of this section, treat the securities underlying all currently exercisable or convertible options, warrants, rights or other securities, other than those issued under this exemption, as outstanding. In calculating the amount of securities sold for other purposes of paragraph (d)(2) of this section, count the amount of securities that would be acquired upon exercise or conversion in connection with sales of options, warrants, rights or other exercisable or convertible securities, including those to be issued under this exemption.
(iv) Other exemptions. Amounts of securities sold in reliance on this section do not affect “aggregate offering prices” in other exemptions, and amounts of securities sold in reliance on other exemptions do not affect the amount that may be sold in reliance on this section.
(e) Disclosure that must be provided. The issuer must deliver to investors a copy of the compensatory benefit plan or the contract, as applicable. In addition, if the aggregate sales price or amount of securities sold during any consecutive 12-month period exceeds $5 million, the issuer must deliver the following disclosure to investors a reasonable period of time before the date of sale:
(1) If the plan is subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) (29 U.S.C. 1104-1107), a copy of the summary plan description required by ERISA;
(2) If the plan is not subject to ERISA, a summary of the material terms of the plan;
(3) Information about the risks associated with investment in the securities sold pursuant to the compensatory benefit plan or compensation contract; and
(4) Financial statements required to be furnished by Part F/S of Form 1-A (Regulation A Offering Statement) (§ 239.90 of this chapter) under Regulation A (§§ 230.251 through 230.263). Foreign private issuers as defined in Rule 405 must provide a reconciliation to generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (U.S. GAAP) if their financial statements are not prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP or International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (Item 17 of Form 20-F (§ 249.220f of this chapter)). The financial statements required by this section must be as of a date no more than 180 days before the sale of securities in reliance on this exemption.
(5) If the issuer is relying on paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section to use its parent’s total assets to determine the amount of securities that may be sold, the parent’s financial statements must be delivered. If the parent is subject to the reporting requirements of section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act (15 U.S.C. 78m or 78o(d)), the financial statements of the parent required by Rule 10-01 of Regulation S-X (§ 210.10-01 of this chapter) and Item 310 of Regulation D-B (§ 228.310 of this chapter), as applicable, must be delivered.
(6) If the sale involves a stock option or other derivative security, the issuer must deliver disclosure a reasonable period of time before the date of exercise or conversion. For deferred compensation or similar plans, the issuer must deliver disclosure to investors a reasonable period of time before the date the irrevocable election to defer is made.
(f) No integration with other offerings. Offers and sales exempt under this section are deemed to be a part of a single, discrete offering and are not subject to integration with any other offers or sales, whether registered under the Act or otherwise exempt from the registration requirements of the Act.
(g) Resale limitations.
(1) Securities issued under this section are deemed to be “restricted securities” as defined in § 230.144.
(2) Resales of securities issued pursuant to this section must be in compliance with the registration requirements of the Act or an exemption from those requirements.
(3) Ninety days after the issuer becomes subject to the reporting requirements of section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act (15 U.S.C. 78m or 78o(d)), securities issued under this section may be resold by persons who are not affiliates (as defined in § 230.144) in reliance on § 230.144, without compliance with paragraphs (c) and (d) of § 230.144, and by affiliates without compliance with paragraph (d) of § 230.144.
[64 FR 11101, Mar. 8, 1999, as amended at 64 FR 61498, Nov. 12, 1999; 72 FR 71571, Dec. 17, 2007; 73 FR 1009, Jan. 4, 2008]
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